Division of Law Enforcement
February 21-February 27, 2014
This report represents some events the FWC handled over the past week;
however, it does not include all actions taken by the Division of Law Enforcement.
Patrol, Protect, Preserve
Officers Wicker, Brady, Goodwin and Basford were conducting a night hunting detail utilizing the replica deer. A truck passed by the location and the occupants shot twice at the replica deer and continued on. A traffic stop was conducted on the vehicle and the two subjects were charged with attempting to take deer at night with a gun and light.
Officer Allen was on water patrol on the Apalachicola River when he observed a vessel operating without navigational lights. He observed the vessel pull into some saw grass in an attempt to conceal the boat. Officer Allen followed the vessel into the saw grass and conducted a vessel stop. He found the three occupants lying in the bottom of the boat in an attempt to hide. During the stop, Officer Allen discovered the occupants were in possession of an illegal net that was over 2,000 square feet with an illegal mesh size. They were also in possession of a commercial quantity of fish. All three subjects were issued citations for possession of a net greater than two‑inch stretch, nets not marked, possession of entangling net, possession of net greater than two‑inch stretch on a vessel less than 25 feet in length with a motor in forward half. The net measured over 11,000 square feet. The net and fish were seized as evidence.
Officer Gore concluded an investigation which stemmed from an attempted vessel stop three weeks ago. Officers Gore and Anderson were on water patrol in Apalachicola Bay when they observed a boat operating without navigational lights. They kept the boat under surveillance and determined the vessel was engaged in commercial net fishing. The officers got close enough to the vessel undetected and attempted to conduct a vessel stop, but the vessel failed to stop and fled. The officers stayed alongside the vessel, identified the operator, and observed the other vessel occupant dump a large quantity of net into the water. The suspect vessel then continued into a cove on the north end of the St. George Island Plantation. The officers followed the vessel into the cove where they found it aground. The suspects had left the vessel and ran on foot to the St. George Plantation. A ground search was conducted, but the officers were unable to locate the two occupants. The vessel operator was identified and it was determined his commercial fishing license had been revoked. He was out on bond for a previous arrest for net fishing violations. During the investigation, Officer Gore obtained evidence and secured warrants for the operator and passenger for fleeing and attempting to elude an FWC officer, possession of a commercial quantity of fish while license is revoked, fishing with a net greater than 500 square feet with an illegal mesh size, connecting nets, and nets not marked. The operator has 89 prior arrests for resource violations. During the investigation, Officer Gore determined several individuals assisted the operator to elude authorities, attempted to claim the boat was stolen, and concealed the crime. Officer Gore cited these individuals for giving false information to a law enforcement officer during an investigation. One of these subjects had 72 prior resource arrests. All five suspects have been arrested. Officer Gore was assisted in the case by Investigators Bryant and Cook along with Officers Cook, Stephens, Louque, and Anderson and Lieutenant Wood.
Officers Allen and Gore cited individuals during shellfish patrols this past week for harvesting oysters in a closed area and possession of undersized oysters. All suspects had prior arrests for the same violations.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Miller was on patrol on the Eglin Wildlife Management Area (WMA). He stopped at a parked truck adjacent to a hunting unit that is designated as walk-in only. A hunter arrived at his vehicle carrying a modern bolt action hunting rifle. This phase of hunting season allows only archery and muzzle-loading guns. Officer Miller contacted the hunter and the hunter agreed to take him back to the location where he had been hunting. Officer Jones arrived to assist Officer Miller. They walked to a location where the hunter said that he had been hunting. The officers observed fresh blood on the ground and began tracking. When the hunter realized that the officers had found a blood trail, he spontaneously stated that he had killed a deer. He then took the officers to a doe deer that he had shot earlier in the day. The hunter was charged with taking game by an illegal method and with taking a doe deer. Officers of the Eglin Range Patrol arrived and administratively suspended the hunter's Eglin Hunting Permit for two years.
While on patrol, Officer Ramos encountered a woman who stated her 13‑year‑old son was missing. Officer Ramos notified the Dispatch center and quickly organized a search detail for the missing child. Multiple FWC units as well as Wakulla County Sheriff’s Department deputies arrived to assist in the search. Due to Officer Ramos’s ability to gather critical information and appropriately task assisting units, the child was located by Officer Raker and safely reunited with his mother.
Officer Anderson observed several individuals fishing and catching what appeared to be undersized sheepshead. A resource inspection was conducted and one individual was in possession of six undersized sheepshead. A check through FWC ArrestNet revealed the subject had a prior arrest last year for the same violation. The subject was cited again. The fish were seized as evidence.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officer McDonald was conducting fishing license checks at Montgomery Lake in Lake City, and a computer check revealed a fisherman had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant out of Columbia County. Officer McDonald arrested the man on the active warrant. Lake City Police Department responded and transported the man to the Columbia County Detention Facility.
COPS (Community-Oriented Policing)
Lieutenant Kiss and Officer McDonald attended an end-of-season meeting sponsored by the Osceola Fox Hunters Association. Approximately 35 members were present. The officers answered questions from the hunters.
Officer Langford participated in the annual "Real Men's Christian Event" at the Skeeter Ranch in Hamilton County. Officer Langford brought his patrol boat and answered questions about his job and FWC. Approximately 800 people were in attendance.
Lieutenant Ferguson, Investigator Bing, Officers Cooper and Jenkins attended the 7th Annual National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Florida State Tournament for kids. With over 300 involved and 600 or more observers, officers and several other volunteers assisted with scoring and answering questions throughout the day. The event was exciting and showed the skills of many young archers.
Officer Meurlot stopped an adult male who had been recreationally harvesting shellfish/oysters from his vessel within the shellfish zone of the Mosquito Lagoon. He was found to be in possession of more than three bushels over the allowed recreational daily limit. He was issued a misdemeanor notice to appear for this violation and a civil infraction for failure to be in possession of any harvesting license. This individual had several similar violations documented with FWC in his past.
FWC’s offshore patrol vessel Sea Hawk was conducting an operational detail in the vicinity of Port Canaveral. Officer Luce and his trainee, Officer Mynard, boarded a recreational vessel to conduct a resource inspection. During the inspection they detected indicators of alcohol-related impairment from the operator. The officers conducted an investigation and ultimately arrested the vessel operator for operating the vessel under the influence of alcohol. The suspect later provided a breath sample that indicated his BAC was .186, which is more than twice the legal limit. The operator was booked into the Brevard County Jail.
Officers Loeffler and Humphrey responded to a call in reference to the use of an illegal net on the St. Johns River near SR 520. One subject was observed fishing with three separate nets from the shore. The nets were removed from the water and measured. The subject was issued numerous citations for the use of illegal seine nets in freshwater and using nets greater than 500 square feet.
While on patrol in the area of Palm Bay, Officer Lightsey observed a truck exit the woods and enter the roadway in a careless manner, with no due regard to other traffic. The vehicle accelerated at a very fast pace and appeared to have no license plate. After stopping the vehicle, Officer Lightsey found the driver covered in mud and only wearing his underwear. When asked for his driver’s license, the man stated that his Florida driver’s license was revoked. A check through FWC dispatch revealed that the man was wanted out of Montana for drug charges, but Montana would not extradite. Montana had also revoked the man’s driver license due to a previous DUI. It was also discovered that the vehicle was not registered. The man was placed under arrest for felony driving while license revoked and for operating a non-registered motor vehicle. A warning was issued for careless driving. The man was then handed over to the Brevard County Jail.
The final disposition of charges for a man arrested by Officer Lightsey in June 2013 resulted in the defendant being found guilty on four separate charges relating to sheepshead, snook, and snapper resource. The defendant must now serve 60 days farm time (Sheriff’s work ranch) and pay $1,546 in fines and court costs. The defendant is required to show receipt of a measuring device prior to having his fishing license reinstated. The defendant must also obtain and read saltwater magazine.
Officer McDaniel and Lieutenant Smith responded to an airboat crash on the St. John’s River. During the investigation, it was learned that a five-year-old juvenile had been ejected from a commercial tour airboat the day before. The juvenile had been transported to the hospital with minor injuries. The captain of the airboat failed to notify authorities or the owner of the tour business in a timely manner. Charges will be filed. [S1]
Officer Douglas responded to a small airplane crash in a wooded area of Wekiwa State Park. Both occupants survived and were transported by EMS. FWC officers secured the scene for Federal Aviation Administration investigators.
Officer Morgan taught the legal portion of a hunter education course at “Guns and Camo” in Melbourne. There were 30 students in attendance.
Officer Loeffler taught the legal portion of a hunter education course at the Titusville Gun Club in Mims. There were 23 students in attendance.
Officer Horst presented in front of several ecology classes at Eau Gallie High School. The topic was careers in FWC. He spoke to 75 high school seniors about FWC law enforcement and how to become an FWC officer. The students seemed very interested and asked many thoughtful questions.
Officer Lightsey spoke to Sebastian Police Department’s Citizens Academy in Indian River County. There were 24 people in attendance. Lightsey presented the mission of the FWC and emphasized the importance of working with those in the community to accomplish that mission.
Officers Raczek and Sumpter worked the opening of the youth spring turkey hunt. After hearing a shot, the officers were able to locate a male subject and conducted an inspection. The male subject did not qualify for the youth hunt, did not possess a hunting license or turkey stamp and was also in possession of an electronic call. After interviewing the male subject, two infractions were issued for the license violations and two written warnings were issued for hunting turkey out of season and being in possession of an electronic call.
Officers Raczek and Furbay worked a baited area during the youth spring turkey season. The officers observed a male subject enter in a property and enter a tree stand approximately 30 yards from a feeder with cracked corn. The officers heard the man making a hen turkey call for a good portion of the morning. Eventually a hog entered the area and the man shot the hog. When the officers approached the man he told them that he was not calling any turkeys and that it must have been someone else. Further inspection revealed the man was in possession of a turkey box call, three mouth calls and a gobbler call. A records check revealed that he had been issued a citation two years prior for hunting turkeys over bait in the same location. The man continued to deny hunting turkeys but did admit that he likes to see turkeys. Two misdemeanor charges were issued for attempting to take turkey over bait and attempting to take turkey out of season.
Officer Henry observed a subject he had previously cited for illegal possession of gopher tortoises riding a bicycle down the street with a large sack across the handle bars that looked suspicious. Officer Henry made contact with the subject and the subject advised he was collecting cans. However the cans turned out to be ten gopher tortoises and the subject was found to have an active warrant. The subject was placed under arrest. The tortoises were released unharmed to the area they were collected.
Lieutenant Allen and Officer Ervin were on water patrol on Lake June when they encountered a ski boat without registration numbers or a decal. The owner of the vessel stated he had bought the boat in October 2013 and had used it to make commercials. The boat was not titled in his name. He was issued a notice to appear in court for failing to apply for a title within 30 days after purchase.
Officers Bryson and Morrow were dispatched to Sanibel Island to investigate the report of several subjects cast netting and fishing along the beach near the fishing pier. One of the three subjects was observed by a witness allegedly carrying a snook onto the pier and measuring it at a fish cleaning station. According to the eye witness, the male subject then carried it back to the area where the group was fishing and tossed it into the bushes near their coolers. Both officers arrived on scene and began to watch the subjects. During their surveillance, contact was made with the complainant who was still on scene and assisted the officers with identifying the persons involved and the location where the snook was tossed. The group began packing up and proceeded to walk away when they were stopped by the officers who conducted a fisheries inspection. One of the male subjects within the group admitted catching a fish he identified as a snook that measured 23 inches. Officers located the freshly cut snook head in the area where the fish was reported to have been tossed, however were unable to locate the rest of the body. The subject who admitted catching the snook was issued a notice to appear and charged with possession of snook during closed season and possessing an undersized snook.
While conducting a fisheries inspection on a vessel during offshore patrol, Officers Smith and Thompson discovered multiple gag grouper and American red snapper in a cooler, as well as an undersized greater amberjack. The captain of the vessel was issued a citation for out of season gag grouper and American red snapper. A warning was issued for undersized greater amberjack.
Lieutenant Allen, Officers Ervin and Zimmerman participated in the “Know Your Neighbor” event sponsored by Highlands Hammock State Park. Officer Zimmerman displayed an airboat and numerous questions were answered by the officers with regard to hunting and boating safety. It was the first time that so many people saw an airboat up close.
SOUTH REGION A
Investigator Teems conducted a traffic stop at the overflow parking lot of John U. Lloyd State Park. She observed a blue Chrysler traveling north on the main road with an expired tag. The driver advised Investigator Teems that her driver's license was suspended as she was handing her license to her. A database check confirmed her license had been suspended indefinitely since September 2013. The defendant had five prior convictions from 2006 - 2013 and six suspensions for failure to pay fines in the last four months. Investigator Teems asked the subject if she had current insurance and she stated no. A seize tag order was also confirmed. The subject advised she was late for a party at the park and that is why she was driving. Investigator Teems issued the defendant citations for revoked driving while license is suspended 3rd offense, tag expired 2nd offence, and no insurance. Her Florida tag was seized and turned into Department of Highway Motor Vehicles. The woman was processed and booked into the Broward County Jail.
Officer Ryan was checking the Florida Power and Light (FPL) property off SR 84 and 30thAvenue when he noticed a small vessel in the middle of the FPL cooling lakes. After observing all three occupants fishing, he was able to make contact with the vessel. The individuals admitted to seeing “No Trespassing” signs, and claimed they have seen multiple people launching small boats in the area. The owner was issued three citations for boating safety and registration issues, and the other two occupants were issued citations for fishing licenses violations.
Officer Ryan was travelling southbound on I-95 near Sample Road when he observed a red Pontiac nearly cause an accident while changing lanes. Officer Ryan ran the tag through the database and the registration information came back to a blue Toyota expired in 2009. When Officer Ryan stopped the vehicle, the driver initially provided a false name and DOB. It was later discovered that he had a warrant in Broward County for failure to appear on a previous driving with no license charge. He was issued a criminal citation for driving with no valid license and transported to the Broward County Jail. Border Patrol was also contacted and a hold was placed on the subject for overstaying his visa.
Officer Nasworth was on water patrol on Lake Okeechobee in the area of Horse Island when he observed a white vessel with two occupants fishing with rod and reel. Officer Nasworth made contact with them to conduct a boating safety inspection. During the inspection, Officer Nasworth discovered four undersized black bass less than 18-inches in the bottom of the livewell. Officer Nasworth issued the subject a citation and court date for Glades County.
Captain Ardelean, Lieutenants Strenth and Brown, and Officer Lafoy patrolled the Okeechobee Battlefield State Park in during the Second Seminole War Reenactment. The two-day event was attended by approximately 1600 people and numerous vendors.
Officers Alford and Harris, and Lieutenants Strenth and Brown were working the "Ride for Literacy" around Lake Okeechobee. A call came in that one of the bicyclists had fallen and was hurt on the levee around the lake. Lieutenant Strenth was able to let the ambulance onto the levee and proceed to the injured victim. The man suffered from severe road rash and complained that his ribs hurt.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
While on vessel patrol on Lake Okeechobee, Officers Harris and Alford observed a vessel with two subjects on board fishing at Jones Cut. The officers initiated a vessel stop for boating safety, freshwater fisheries, and fishing license inspections. During the inspections Officer Alford and Harris discovered three undersized black crappie. The subject at the stern of the vessel spontaneously told the officers that the short fish were his. Officer Harris issued a citation for the undersized black crappie.
While on vessel patrol on Lake Okeechobee, Officers Harris and Alford observed a vessel with two subjects on board fishing at Jones Cut. The officers initiated a vessel stop for boating safety, freshwater fisheries, and fishing license inspections. Officer Alford requested a freshwater license from the subject at the bow of the vessel. The subject produced a faded, expired resident freshwater license. Officer Alford advised the subject that his license was expired and asked for his identification. The subject said he had no identification with him. Officer Alford asked him to write his name, date of birth, and address down on his notepad. Dispatch returned with no records found. After interviewing the subject and cross referencing the database, the subject failed to produce accurate information on multiple occasions. Officer Alford told the subject to get his wallet out. The subject stated he did not have his wallet, as he and tried to hide his bulging right cargo pocket. Officer Alford advised that the subject had retrieved his expired fishing license from his wallet earlier and that it was very apparent that he was being deceitful. Officer Alford asked if the wallet was in his cargo pocket, the subject shrugged and finally produced the wallet and ID. The subject was using another person’s expired fishing license. The subject was cited for providing false identification by a detained person.
Officer Nasworth was on land patrol in the area of Muck City Road and CR 15 when he received a call from a Deputy Sheriff about some rabbit hunters trespassing on U.S. Sugar property. Officer Nasworth arrived on scene and observed a subject riding a bicycle and wearing a backpack on the property. Officer Nasworth made contact with subject who admitted that he was rabbit hunting and had some in his backpack. Officer Nasworth issued the subject a citation and court date for trespassing.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Investigator Patterson made contact with the vessel Blessings to conduct a fisheries inspection. While making contact with this vessel, Investigator Patterson saw the first mate of this vessel was an individual he previously requested warrants for, and placed the subject under arrest. The subject faces charges in reference to burglary and theft at a fishhouse.
SOUTH B REGION
Investigator Haney and Officer DeVenuta were on water patrol in the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and stopped a vessel returning to port to complete a boating safety inspection. While performing the inspection, the officers detected signs of impairment from the vessel operator and proceeded with conducting seated field sobriety tasks. It was concluded the operator was impaired, and in turn was arrested and charged with BUI.
Lieutenant Shea, Officers Miller and Reith were returning from water patrol when they stopped a commercial vessel. Officers Miller and Reith boarded the vessel to conduct a commercial fisheries inspection. The officers determined that the vessel was carrying commercial quantities of kingfish without a saltwater products license (SPL). The captain of the vessel was issued a notice to appear for harvesting king mackerel commercially without a SPL.
Officers Futch and Tolbert provided public safety support and crowd control for the 3rd Annual Everglades Ultras trail races at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. This year boasted the highest turnout of 233 runners. The race was completed without any incidents and a good time was had by all.
While on land patrol at Black Point Marina, two concerned citizens stopped Officer Yanez and informed him that two subjects had possibly caught and kept an undersized snook. After they provided a detailed description of both subjects, the subjects were spotted by the officer returning to their vehicle. An inspection revealed that one of the two subjects were in possession of fresh fish fillets. Officer Cabanas and Investigator Taboas arrived by vessel to assist. A cell phone photo taken by the subject revealed a picture of the freshly caught fish before it had been filleted and discarded, and it was identified as a snook. Based upon the photo’s background, Investigator Taboas and Officer Yanez were able to locate, recover and measure the snook carcass. The fillets were overlaid onto the carcass, providing a perfect match. The subject was then issued a citation for having harvested an undersized snook. After the snook case, Officer Randy Yanez was unlocking the park’s gate to leave when a van ran a stop sign, turned right and stopped just before crashing into the gate. The driver opened his door and told the officer that he was "trying to get to Hollywood (Florida)." Officer Yanez walked up to the driver’s door and noticed extremely slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from the driver as he talked. Officer Yanez also saw a female crying in the passenger seat. She told the officer that she had tried to stop her boyfriend from driving and that he had hit her hand when she tried taking the keys out of the ignition. Officer Yanez requested assistance from the local police department. A DUI and drug recognition expert officer arrived on scene, conducted field sobriety tests and arrested the subject for DUI. Officer Yanez issued a citation for failure to stop at the stop sign.
Officer Rodriguez and Lieutenant Kaloostian were on water patrol outside of Homestead Bayfront Park when they stopped three subjects on a small, eight-foot inflatable vessel. The subjects were towing a rubber raft full of snorkeling gear. An inspection of their cooler revealed two speared, undersized hogfish. A further check revealed two undersized lobsters that had been hidden inside of a fabric speargun storage sleeve. One subject received citations for the resource violations along with other safety equipment and registration violations.
Officers in Miami-Dade County were dispatched to an overdue kayaker that was reported missing the night before. The officers mounted an extensive search in the waters near Oleta River State Park where the subject rented the kayak hours earlier but never returned. After several hours of searching, a kayak that matched the description of the missing one was discovered floating near the mangroves just north of Arch Creek. The officers soon discovered the missing man up in a mangrove tree. The officers approached the subject and attempted to get him to come down from the tree but he refused. The subject continued to climb further up the mangrove tree until the branch gave way causing the subject to land in the water. FWC officers immediately jumped into the water and brought the subject to safety. The subject was transported to the Miami office where he was treated and then transported to the hospital for evaluation.
Officers responded to a serious injury boating accident in the upper Keys where a boater was severely injured after being cut by a vessels propeller. According to witnesses, a vessel ran aground on a flat near Islamorada and a good samaritan on a boat came to assist. The man jumped into the water and attempted to push the vessel off the flat from the stern as the vessel was engaged in gear. As the vessel was moving the man fell on the propeller causing severe injuries to his torso and arms. The man was transported to shore where he was subsequently treated and flown to Jackson Memorial Hospital for further treatment.
Officer Mattson was on water patrol in Black Water Sound off of Key Largo when he stopped a vessel to perform a boating safety inspection. Officer Mattson immediately observed the operator had slurred speech and glassy, bloodshot eyes. Further field sobriety exercises revealed cues of impairment. Officer Mattson arrested the man for BUI and took him to shore in order to continue the investigation. The man agreed to perform a breath test. Breath test results were a .190 and .195. A deputy from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office transported the man to Plantation Key Jail where he was booked for boating under the influence.
COP (Community Oriented Policing)
Officer Dube and personnel from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary shared a booth at the Rotary's Gigantic Nautical Flea Market at Islamorada's Founders Park. The weekend event drew thousands of visitors. Officer Dube was on hand to answer questions and give tips on conservation. Approximately 700 people visited the FWC booth over the weekend.
Officer Munkelt and Lieutenant Riesz assisted the City of Marathon Parks and Recreation and the Organized Fishermen of Florida first annual "Fishing Fun" Kids fishing clinic. Officers baited hooks and measured fish as they interacted with over 140 people attending the event. The officers also distributed identification booklets and the newest rules and regulations guides. The officers helped to identify fish and assisted the children in measuring the fish thus fostering a fun learning environment.